Thursday, October 29, 2009

Asylum seekers in Australia - Even the ABC beats the drum of division and exclusion!

I sent the following message to ABC Radio 666 Canberra this morning after their breakfast presenter thought it would be clever to run a straw poll on his program on what should happen to the Sri Lankans on the Australian customs vessel:

"I don't usually listen to Solly at breakfast as I find his simple minded pandering to the lowest common denominator a bit much to stomach - why ABC feels the need to compete with commercial talk back is beyond me. Our public broadcaster should be very careful with an incendiary issue such as asylum seekers. The drum beat of division and exclusion is coming from many quarters. Half-baked commentary and so-called 'straw polls' are the bread & butter of shock jocks, Sky News and low rent programs like ACA etc.

The issues surrounding the Australian vessel in Indonesia are complex and almost parenthetical to the broader issues surrounding asylum seekers.

I have worked in this area so I know a bit about the subject.

The Coalition Govt turned itself inside out to leverage Indonesian support for the idea of 'warehousing' asylum seekers in Lombok and other places. Unfortunately for Labor our erstwhile govt did not bother to properly resource the UNHCR and the IOM to manage the Indonesian processing of refugee claims humanely, efficiently and expeditiously.

Now that Rudd is looking to build on the Howard govt approach, taking a more systematic and humane approach to the processing problem, elements within the Indonesian establishment are unhappy at the prospect. They have seen Australia dump the problem on their laps before, but with little compensation and support.

Rudd has an opportunity to change the construct through adequate resourcing of the lead agencies and the Indonesian authorities. It is vital that a compassionate approach is taken to detention, enabling asylum seekers to retain their dignity and well-being whilst awaiting decisions on their future.

Australia must model best practice in this area, ensuring the provisions of international legal instruments and human rights conventions are followed to the letter. This can be a win/win for asylum seekers, the respective processing authorities, and the countries in the firing line."

You would think the ABC would demonstrate a bit more responsibility in this area, particularly given the presenter knew very little about the complex issues surrounding this current conundrum.

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